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The Reality of Fast Food Meat

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According to Eric Schlosser author of Fast Food Nation, "Fast food has had an enormous impact not only on our eating habits but on our economy, our culture, and our values"(3). According to Lois Williams on any given day, about one quarter of U.S. adults visit a fast-food restaurant. The typical American now eats about three hamburgers each week (2). Schlosser also writes that "thirty years ago Americans spent about six billion dollars annually on fast food. In 2000 they spent over one-hundred and ten billion dollars, more than on higher education, personal computers, or new cars (3). The reality of fast food is regarding the spreading and feeding of illness and disease; as well as the inhumane treatment of animals through modern meat farming practices. Our society imagines images of happy animals living on farms where the cows graze in lush green fields and the chickens run around as they please. This vision of free-roaming animals living out their days in sunny fields is very far from the reality. A majority of the animals that are raised for food live miserable lives in dark and overcrowded facilities. These facilities are commonly called "factory farms"(Maguire 5).

Factory farming began in the 1920s soon after the discovery of vitamins A and D. Shirley Leung said, when these vitamins are added to feed, animals no longer require exercise and sunlight for growth (B2). This allowed large numbers of animals to be raised indoors year-round. The greatest problem that was faced in raising these animals indoors was the spread of disease, which was fought against in the 1940s with the development of antibiotics. Farmers found they could increase productivity and reduce the operating costs by using machines and assembly-line techniques. Unfortunately, this trend of mass production has resulted in incredible pain and suffering for the animals. Animals today raised on factory farms have had their genes manipulated and pumped full of antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals to encourage high productivity. In the fast food industry, animals are not considered animals at all; "they are food producing machines" (Baldwin). They are confined to small cages with metal bars, ammonia-filled air and artificial lighting or no lighting at all. They are subjected to horrible mutilations: beak searing, tail docking, ear cutting and castration. The worst thing is that humans consume these products everyday in a so called "Happy meal." Far too many people close their minds and their consciousness to the situation. Instead they literally feed their own bodies with disease and support this inhumane treatment of animals. Despite new federal safety regulations, more than one-hundred million pounds of meat has been recalled since 1998 due to suspected bacterial contamination. And just last summer, the nation's largest meat processor had to recall five-hundred thousand pounds of beef contaminated with bacteria from seventeen states (Maguire 5). Have dramatic changes in the U.S. meat industry compromised the overall safety of American beef? McDonald's, which is only one of many different fast food industries, uses 2.5 billion pounds of this chicken, beef and pork annually. Perhaps, the most interesting question that I am sure most Americans have never asked themselves while stuffing a delicious juicy Big Mac into their mouth, is where the meat in the burger came from? How often do you think about the origin of the food you eat every day? What do you know about those six billion cows, chickens, and other animals who are only brought into this world to be enslaved and slaughtered each year in order to make an extra buck satisfy your appetite ?

Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, Double Cheeseburgers and any other burgers sold at fast food restaurants, are made of the ground up flesh of a cow. This cow was taken from its mother at birth and raised either for slaughter or milk production. A male calf raised for slaughter has his testicles and horns removed by painfully brutal methods. He is also repeatedly branded, all with no type of pain killers. In addition, he is crowded with other calves in a feedlot with pools of manure, allowed little exercise, and fed an unnatural diet to fatten more quickly. This diet is usually due to a rise in grain prices which has encouraged the feeding of less expensive materials to cattle, especially substances with a high protein content that accelerate growth. Currently the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) regulations allow dead pigs and dead horses to be rendered into cattle feed, along with dead poultry (Hamilton). The regulations not only allow cattle to be fed dead poultry, they allow poultry to be fed dead cattle. According to a documentary on these cattle, Alec Baldwin states that "the U.S. Department of Agriculture ( USDA ) allows cattle with cancerous lesions and puss filled wounds to be approved for slaughter therefore, injuries and illnesses go untreated" (Baldwin). A female cow, which is also known as a diary cattle is sent to a dairy farm to produce milk. She is confined to an indoor stall where she is treated as a milk machine rather than a live animal. Dairy cattle are also impregnated annually in order to keep the milk flowing. They are hooked up to machines that injure them and often times milked about three times a day. Injuries from the machines usually allow puss from lesions to mix in with our milk. After five to six years, she is slaughtered and her flesh is ground into hamburger: your Big Mac. "More than one-hundred thousand of these cattle are unable to walk off the truck sent to the slaughter house, however they are still slaughtered for human food anyway" (Baldwin).

The recent changes in how cattle are raised, slaughtered, and processed have created an ideal means for pathogens to spread. Pathogens are an agent that causes disease, especially a living microorganism such as a bacterium, virus, or fungus ("Pathogens"). The problem begins in today's feedlots. A feedlot is where the cattle are fed and raised ( "Feedlot"). A government health official who was interviewed for an article in the Wall Street Journal by Shirley Leung, and preferred not to be named, compared the sanitary conditions in a modern feedlot to those in a crowded European city during the Middle Ages. These were the times when people dumped their chamber pots out the window, raw sewage ran in the streets, and epidemics raged ( B2). The cattle now packed into feedlots get little exercise and live in pools of manure. Feedlots have become an extremely efficient mechanism for "recirculating the manure," which is unfortunate, since Escherichia coli O157:H7 or E.coli can replicate in cattle troughs and survive in manure for up to ninety



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